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Shankar Mahadevan has conceptualized and directed the show. Photo: Narendra Dangiya
Shankar Mahadevan has conceptualized and directed the show. Photo: Narendra Dangiya

Mainstreaming folk traditions

Shankar Mahadevan's new show with 22 folk artistes will open on the eve of Republic Day

Music has no language barriers, if you present it nicely (to audiences). If it’s just you singing and people listening, they may feel disconnected," says singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan, who has conceptualized and directed the My Country, My Music show with 22 folk musicians. The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) will host the show this weekend.

My Country, My Music will have songs in 10 languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali and Kashmiri. Folk singers such as Mame Khan from Rajasthan, Rasika Shekar from Kashmir and Ganesh Chandanshive, who is an expert in Maharashtrian bharud, will share the stage with Mahadevan, who will sing in multiple languages and render some of his songs from Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films as well. “It’s a musical journey through India," says Mahadevan in a phone interview from Mumbai.

Suvarnalata Rao, head of music programming at the NCPA, says the show is an attempt to mainstream folk traditions. “Lavani and Tamasha are still better understood because people get to see them in films. But what about Tamil folk traditions or songs from Assam? What do our young people know about folk music?" she asks.

To make the music accessible and interesting to young audiences, Mahadevan says he has tried to give the “unadulterated" voices and performances of folk artistes a modern platform. For one, a contemporary band, with electric guitars, saxophone, keyboard and bass guitar, will accompany all the artistes. He has also worked with the folk artistes to write new pieces for the show.

Yet another method he is relying on is the use of his own hits from films in different languages. “I have tried to show the influence of folk music in Bollywood, in Tamil movies, in Telugu cinema," Mahadevan explains.

One of the biggest challenges while putting together the show was to decide which folk traditions would have to be left out given the time available. “You don’t know where to start when you have a concept like that and there is only so much time during the concert," he says.

What does he expect audiences to take away from the show? “You will see everything from kajri to qawwali and world fusion. By the end of the show, people will feel proud of our country," says Mahadevan.

My Country, My Music will be held on 23-24 January, 6.30pm onwards, at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point. Tickets, 375, 750, 1,145, 1,500, 2,250, 2,290 and 3,435, available on in.bookmy show.com

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